Destructive insect outbreaks and cod collapse | 1/18/2018 | Staff
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When fundamental changes started to happen in three ecosystems in North America, people reacted: They completely stopped pollution, forestry and fishing. But these measures were futile; it was impossible to bring the ecosystems back to their original state. Why didn't the management efforts have any effect?

"There are two major challenges that face ecologists and ecosystem managers today: Understanding what drives unexpected shifts in ecosystems, and understanding what limits the effectiveness of management measures," says researcher Karen Filbee-Dexter at the Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA).

Cooperation - Researcher - Celia - Symons - University

In cooperation with researcher Celia Symons from University of California, Santa Cruz, she has applied a special framework to assess three cases of unexpected ecological shifts in order to reveal whether social or ecological drivers were contributing the most to the ecosystem shifts. The three cases were a destructive insect outbreak in British Colombia forests; persistent water quality loss in Lake Champlain south of Montréal; and a collapse of the cod fishery in Atlantic Canada. The results were published in the Journal of Applied Ecology.

According to Filbee-Dexter, incorporating human systems into research on natural systems is a key challenge for understanding sudden changes in ecosystems.

Research - Systems - Dynamics - Solutions - Problems

"Combining research on social systems and natural dynamics is essential if we are to find solutions to urgent environmental problems in a rapidly changing world," the NIVA researcher says.

In their study, Filbee-Dexter and Symons applied the so-called socioecological system framework, or SES framework, which was developed by economist Elinor Ostrom. The framework expands the traditional focus from ecosystems or social systems alone to include interactions within a larger "socioecological system." The socioecological system integrates both ecological and social data, including data on climate, species interactions, restrictions, quotas, harvesting, and managed resources.

Study - Components - Systems - Cod - Forest

In this study, the components of the three socioecological systems (cod, forest and lake) were categorized into multiple variables that describe the...
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